KILLDEER – (Charadrius vociferus)
DESCRIPTION: The Killdeer is a fairly large wading bird in the plover family. Its upper parts are medium brown on top and its under parts are white. There is a white circular collar followed by a black one, then a white band on the breast followed by a black one. The forehead is white with a small black band above, and there is also a small white band above the eye, which has a red ring. There is a small black band starting from each side of the bill and ending on the neck side. The rump is pinkish-orange. The bill is black and the legs pinkish. Sexes are similar, and juveniles have only one black neck band. The killdeer is around 26 cm (10 inches) long.
NAME: The English name ‘Killdeer’ is an onomatopoeia for the bird’s somewhat plaintive call (and no, it does not ‘kill deer’). The Latin genus name ‘charadrius’ is from ancient Greek and refers to a bird found in ravines or river valleys, and ‘vociferus’ means ‘to shout’. The latter name was given to the bird because of its clear sounding calls, often heard in flight or even after sunset or before sunrise. In addition, this bird was also called ‘Chattering’ or ‘Noisy’ plover in the past.
HABITAT: Exceptionally for a plover, the kildeer prefers lawns, parking lots and golf courses in urban areas, and in fields and other open dry areas during breeding season. It can also be seen in coastal marshes and mudflats.
DIET: Opportunistic, i.e. includes invertebrates, seeds, and small amphibians or fish.
NESTING: The nest is a scrape on the ground. Around five beige eggs are laid, which are incubated by both parents. Chicks are able to feed themselves soon after hatching. Killdeer parents are known to use the ‘broken wing tactic’ to attract would-be intruders away from their nest. They also have another tactic to try and redirect a large grazing animal from their nest – by making themselves appear bigger and lunging at the animal.
Sometimes the nesting location, if in an urban area, may cause problems – for upcoming shows for example. The nest in this situation had been moved little by little very slowly over a number of days – at a cost.
DISTRIBUTION: The killdeer is a North American species. Its main breeding range encompasses most of Canada up to the tree line, and the northern part of the USA except out West, where it is a year-round resident, as well as the rest of the USA and the northern half of Mexico. Killdeers from the northern range will migrate south down to the northern part of South America. Some vagrants have been reported as far as Hawaii.
ON PEI: The killdeer is known to breed on Prince Edward Island, and is common to fairly common, depending on the years.
CONSERVATION: Killdeer populations declined markedly over the last few decades, in spite of the fact that this bird species adapted to the human environment by using agricultural fields, for example. However, this advantage might be offset by the negative impact of pesticide use on those fields. Its population is not currently considered at risk.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Semipalmated Plover (smaller), Piping Plover (smaller)
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/killdeer.htm (New Hampshire PBS)
https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/killdeer (Missouri Department of Conservation)
KILLDEER – (Charadrius vociferus)